When Joffrey Lupul was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks last season, it was widely thought that he was just a salary dump on Anaheim’s part and the Leafs had to take him in the trade in order to acquire rookie Jake Gardiner.
He was certainly a risky acquisition considering his past injury history, but the risk has seemed to pay off for the Leafs.
In 28 games with the Leafs last season, Lupul compiled nine goals and nine assists for 18 points. He has continued to play well through the first 12 games of the season, compiling eight goals and six assists for 14 points.
If you were to ask anyone in Leafs management if they were expecting that type of production, they would probably say no. Sure, they were hoping for it, but considering his history, it would be hard-pressed to find someone who predicted this.
What Joffrey Lupul is providing on the first line is an offensive option who is not named Phil Kessel. Now, when teams focus in on Kessel, Lupul is there to pick up the slack. If Lupul is attacked, Kessel can take advantage. Don’t forget that Tim Connolly is there as well.
Lupul has bounced around the NHL for almost his entire career and it seems that he has found a home with the Maple Leafs. After being drafted seventh overall in 2002 by Anaheim, he has seen time in Edmonton, Philadelphia and a second stint in Anaheim before finding his way to Toronto. He was obviously viewed as having potential, being traded for Chris Pronger twice.
At this point, I don’t want to see him involved in any trade rumors because even if the Leafs were to acquire an elite first-line left winger, he would still be a valuable asset to the Leafs on the second or even third line.
Lupul’s career-high in goals was back in his second season with 28. With eight goals in 12 games so far, it looks like he will be able to improve on his career-high. Having another player reaching the 30-goal plateau will only help the Leafs.
Say what you want about Lupul not being a first-line caliber forward, but for now, he’s playing like one. As long as he does, he will continue to play alongside Phil Kessel and he will deserve it.